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And in.the other:
'My wanton verse n'er keeps one certain stay;
In addressing in one sonnet the Spirit of Beauty, in another Posterity, in another Himself, &c, Shakespeare was but taking advantage of the fact that the typical sonnet publication was a medley. A sonnet publication, in this, well suited his purpose, for of his picture in the Sonnets he might have said what Montaigne said of his in his 'Essays': 'Now, though the features of my picture alter and change, 'tis not, however, unlike. ... I take it as it is at the instant I consider it; I do not paint its being, I paint its passage; not a passage from one age to another, or, as the people say, from seven to seven years, but from day to day, from minute to minute. I must accommodate my history to the hour: I may presently change, not only by fortune, but also by intention. 'Tis a counterpart of various and changeable accidents, and of irresolute imaginations, and, as it falls out, sometimes contrary: whether it be that I am then another self, or that I take subjects by other circumstances and considerations: so it is, that I may peradventure contradict myself, but, as Demades said, I never contradict the truth.'1
It must also be "borne in mind that Shakespeare considered, in accordance with the Platonic idea, that the Spirit of Beauty had its seat in the mind. This idea
1 Cotton's trans., ed. W. C. Hazlitt, Book Hi. chap. ii.
we have seen expressed in Spenser's 'Hymns' (p. 11), in his Sonnet 88 (p. 20), and in the speech of Bembo (p. 17); and it is this that causes Shakespeare, in the Sonnets, to speak so often of the Spirit of Beauty as part—the better part—of himself.
As to the annotations we have prefixed to the Sonnets, making plain and pleasant the 'conveyance of his invention,' it must be remembered that they result from the point of view, in the application of our theory, of but a single mind. While we believe that our annotations afford, as they stand, overwhelming presumption of the truth of our general idea, we look forward to others' suggestion of better interpretations of some sonnets in conformity with that idea.
THE 'PHCENIX AND TURTLE.'
Shakespeare's poem known as the 'Phoenix and Turtle' was published in 1601, and was doubtless written within a short time of publication. It is one of several short compositions appended to Robert Chester's 'Love's Martyr,'of which poem, and of the appended compositions other than Shakespeare's, we first give some account.
The full title of the book runs :—
Allegorically shadowing the truth of Love in the constant Fate of the Phoenix and Turtle. A poeme interlaced with much varietie and raritie now first translated out of the venerable Italian Torquato Cseliano, by Robert Chester. With the true legend of the famous King Arthur, the last of the nine Worthies, being the first Essay of a new Brytish Poet: collected out of diverse Authenticall Records.
To these are added some new compositions, of severall moderne Writers whose names are subscribed to their several Workes, upon the first subject: viz., the Phoenix and Turtle.
Dr. Grosart, who in 1878 reprinted the book in his 'Occasional Issues' and edited it also for the New Shakespeare Society, identified Robert Chester of 'Love's Martyr' with a Robert Chester, afterwards Sir Robert Chester, of Royston, Herts. He was knighted by King James on July 23, 1603, and in 1601 was in his thirtyfifth year. No other composition by Robert Chester is known.
As to 'Torquato Cseliano,' Dr. Grosart noted, in his introduction to the reprint, a book in Italian published at Bergamo in 1587, a collection of rhymes of diverse poets, of which, pages 95—148 were selections from Livio Caeliano, and pages 149—81 selections from Torquato Tasso. Whether Chester's combination of the christian name of the one with the surname of the other is accidental or intentional cannot be decided; but none of the poems in that book has the same subject as Chester's 'Love's Martyr' or bears any resemblance to that poem; and as Chester, in his 'request to the Phoenix,' says 'accept my home-writ praises of thy love,' and for other
reasons which will be apparent, his talk in the title page of translation must be taken to be a pretence.
Immediately following the title page is Chester's dedication of the poem to Sir John Salisbury, 'one of the esquires of the body to the Queen's most excellent Majesty '—an address of the sort then usual; it throws no light on the poem.
Next comes, ' The author's request to the Phoenix '; and then
'TO THE KIND READER.'
'Of bloody wars, nor of the sack of Troy,
Then comes the poem, the argument of which may be stated in very few words: Rosalin (Dame Nature) has produced a Phoenix of inexpressible beauty, and she begins to fear that this Phoenix will decay without being able to reproduce herself in the phoenix manner. Dame Nature therefore attends at a parliament of the gods to supplicate assistance, which Jove eventually grants. He directs her to convey the Phoenix to 'Paphos Isle,' where will be found the Turtle Dove (Love's Martyr), by virtue of whom the Phoenix will be able to consume, and to produce an offspring from her ashes.
The poem is headed:—
'Rosalins Complaint, metaphorically applied to Dame Nature at a Parliament held (in the high Star-chamber) by the Gods, for the preservation and increase of Earth's beauteous Phoenix.'
We give a few extracts which carry the argument up to the meeting of the Phoenix and the Turtle Dove, and from that point—for this is specially important—all that exhibits their relations with, or relation to, each other. The poem begins: —
'A solemn day of meeting 'mongst the gods,
To this assembly came Dame Nature weeping,
Behold thy handmaid, king of earthly kings,
One rare rich Phoenix of exceeding beauty,
One and none such, since the wide world was found.
Hath ever Nature placed on the ground.'